Bi­par­ti­san ef­fort in Se­nate to aid Dream­ers after Obama punts

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

After the White House ruled out a par­don for il­le­gal im­mi­grant Dream­ers, a bi­par­ti­san group of se­na­tors vowed Thursday to write a bill next year grant­ing them full le­gal sta­tus — though they will need to per­suade a Pres­i­dent Trump to back their ef­fort.

Two vet­er­ans of the last ma­jor im­mi­gra­tion fight, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illi­nois Demo­crat, and Repub­li­can Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, said try­ing to de­port some 740,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grant Dream­ers would be in­hu­mane.

They said they will try to have a bill writ­ten next week and ready to go in the new year, and per­haps pass it be­fore the next Congress is sworn in and be­fore Mr. Trump’s Jan. 20 inau­gu­ra­tion. Their goal, they said, is to halt de­por­ta­tions in the short term, giv­ing law­mak­ers breath­ing room to take an­other stab at a broad le­gal­iza­tion bill.

“I’ve talked to a num­ber of my col­leagues on the floor, on both sides of the aisle about this, and there are strong emo­tions in fa­vor of help­ing these young peo­ple,” said Mr. Durbin, who has been work­ing on the is­sue for 15 years.

But to suc­ceed, he will need to over­come op­po­si­tion from rank-and-file Repub­li­cans, whose party con­trols both the House and Se­nate and who have re­peat­edly re­jected le­gal­iza­tion at­tempts.

The Dream­ers — a name adopted by young adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. as chil­dren and who have kept out of ma­jor crim­i­nal trou­ble — are con­sid­ered the most sym­pa­thetic cases in the de­bate.

Pres­i­dent Obama in 2012 an­nounced a pro­gram de­signed to give them an amnesty from de­por­ta­tion, which also in­cluded work per­mits en­ti­tling the il­le­gal im­mi­grants to driver’s li­censes and some tax­payer ben­e­fits.

Mr. Trump has vowed to re­voke that pro­gram, which could throw the more than 740,000 ap­proved Dream­ers back into il­le­gal sta­tus, mak­ing them el­i­gi­ble for de­por­ta­tion. De­pend­ing on how Mr. Trump struc­tures his pol­icy, he could can­cel all of the amnesties im­me­di­ately or refuse to re­new them, mean­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants would fall out of sta­tus over time.

Mr. Gra­ham said Mr. Obama’s pro­gram was il­le­gal, but he added that it was un­fair to blame the il­le­gal im­mi­grants who were “tricked” into sign­ing up, pro­vid­ing their iden­ti­ties and ad­dresses to im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials in ex­change for the amnesty. Un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, that in­for­ma­tion would help de­por­ta­tion find the Dream­ers.

“I can­not live with my­self, quite frankly, as a United States sen­a­tor that would take 740,000 peo­ple that vol­un­tar­ily came for­ward and throw them to the wolves,” Mr. Gra­ham said on Fox News.

Mr. Trump has not tipped his hand since the elec­tion on how he would ap­proach the Dream­ers, though those on both sides of the de­bate say they ex­pect him to make good on his pledge to re­voke the pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Mr. Trump ap­peared to be of a mixed mind about how he would treat those af­fected by his de­ci­sion. He ex­pressed sym­pa­thy but said the im­mi­grants needed to get right with the law. Speak­ing at a fo­rum in Septem­ber, Mr. Trump said Dream­ers who join the mil­i­tary were “a very special situation” and could be put on a path to cit­i­zen­ship.

Faced with a Trump pres­i­dency, il­le­gal im­mi­grant ac­tivists have vowed to re­sist any at­tempt to step up de­por­ta­tions, and some lo­cal­i­ties have in­sisted that they would re­main sanc­tu­ary cities, re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate even when asked to turn over crim­i­nal aliens to fed­eral agents.

Ac­tivists had also de­manded that Mr. Obama use his par­don power to grant clemency to Dream­ers, eras­ing their unau­tho­rized sta­tus. The ac­tivists said that wouldn’t grant them a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship but might buy them time while Congress worked out a broader so­lu­tion.

A top White House aide shot down that idea this week, say­ing the par­don power is for crim­i­nal of­fenses while il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is a civil of­fense.

For now, Dream­ers are step­ping for­ward with their own sto­ries of how Mr. Obama’s amnesty has changed their lives by giv­ing them the chance to hold down le­gal jobs.

The Center for Amer­i­can Progress re­leased a re­port in Oc­to­ber find­ing that more than 90 per­cent of those ap­proved for the amnesty re­ceived driver’s li­censes or ID cards, 54 per­cent have bought their first cars and 12 per­cent bought homes.


Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illi­nois Demo­crat, said he sees strong emo­tions from both sides of the aisle in fa­vor of help­ing Dream­ers.

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